It’s been a bit of a crazy week. Elements of fun and tons of preparation, but definite craziness. My cousin Ally is getting married on Saturday to Andy. At our house they are known simply as the “A” team. The A team has asked Ada to be a flower girl along with Ally’s niece, Amelia, and we’ve been prepping for this wedding for months – but not in the traditional sense. Ada, aka “Batman” does not embrace the girly girl side of her personality as of yet. She’d rather be a super hero than wear a beautiful dress, and she prefers green to pink – but the A team is not called the A team for nothing. They’ve ordered the flower girls “Super Hero Flower Girl” Capes. This has helped Ada embrace the moment, and she is now willingly practicing walking down an aisle, having fancied up hair, and carrying her lipstick in her flower girl purse (along with a Super Hero, of course). Not to mention that she and Amelia have become great friends through this process, and as Amelia is girly girl with every fiber in her body, it has helped for Ada to gather a different perspective. I can’t wait to see them dancing and twirling along with the A team on Saturday night – if Ada is able to get rid of the nasty rash that has taken over her face – ugh!
Of course Ada would develop strep throat and a facial rash the very week of the A team wedding – of course! After all her hard work, well, the timing could be better. Thankfully, the antibiotics are working, she is not contagious, and thanks to the amazing Gretchen, we have some kick-butt ointment that will hopefully get things under control by Saturday.
In preparation for the wedding, we have a boat load of family coming into town, and lots of company staying at our house. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s overwhelming, and it’s awesome in every way. So yesterday after taking Ada to the clinic, getting her prescriptions, collecting the boys after school and getting them strep tested (negative – thank goodness), and trying to get our house in some kind of order, the microwave died, and then our printer broke. Ugh! Facial rash and broken printer – I can’t take it! So even my ramped up dosage of Prozac in preparation for family stress was not helping.
So, I decided to start fresh the next morning, and get some positive mojo going – I’ll need it as my sister & I have not spent this much time together since college, and as much as I love the movie “Home for the Holidays” – I don’t want to reenact it. Just when I thought things were turning around this morning, and I had even had a cup of coffee, I received a phone call from E’s Principal.
You might be thinking what I did – OMG, what did Elliott do now? But that was not why she was calling, and I’ve been thinking about this all day. What happened was that at some point this weekend, the E man disabled our parental controls on the office computer, and sent an email to his Principal, his Special Ed. teacher, and his regular Ed. teacher. Here is a copy of the email (with names removed for privacy reasons – hey, Red Couch now has subscribers from Africa, Canada & France, can you believe it?) that E sent:
Subject: Mca Testing
Hey Mrs.C. I’ve been upset that I always have to do map testing and Mca testing in Ms.S’s room. I want to do map testing and Mca Testing with Mr.J’s class. Can you see if you can change that? I would be happy if you can change that about map testing and Mca testing. I will see you tommorrow at school.
Elliott Thomas Kramer
So here’s what Mrs. C. did not know. E has been working hard in school this fall. Last year was, in many ways, tremendously challenging for him (she knew this part all too well). We worried that public school just might not be the best place for Elliott to learn. But this fall, for many reasons (not the least of which is an amazing tutor who has helped him learn to enjoy reading) he is working so hard every day in school to move his clip up to outstanding or super-outstanding almost every day.
And while his school days have been amazing, and he’s working so hard, our home life has been very challenging. It’s as if he’s holding it together all day, and then letting it all out for us a home. Plus, as his hormones begin to rage, well, many days, it’s just ugly. It feels like for Elliott – having positive school days and relative harmony at home at the same time are elusive. We have much progress to make in that department to be sure.
In addition to his current challenges and huge lack of leisure skills at home, he’s asking more and more questions about his autism, and understanding things in a new way. It’s painful sometimes, but his self-awareness is amazing me, and we’re doing our very best to be honest with him without overwhelming him with information. So, for the last month, almost every day, he’s been asking us why he can’t do standardized testing in the mainstream room rather than in the special ed. room. At first, I just told him that when kids have trouble paying attention, it is usually easier to do the testing in a quieter room. That didn’t fly for him. He kept asking every day – and then he asked his teachers about it at conferences when he joined us. As I recall, it went something like “Here’s the deal – I want to take my MCA tests in Mr. J’s room – can you take care of that?” I finally changed my answer to “Elliott, the Principal makes those decisions, and we just need to follow the rules”.
Mrs. C. knew nothing of all this history. Yet, in spite of that, she called to tell me that in many ways, she was proud of him for being respectful, stating his case, and in his own way, letting us know that he was ready for bigger and better challenges. She agreed to chat with him and address his questions, and assured me that if his special education teacher felt he could be successful in the mainstream room with supports, that he could indeed take his standardized tests in the mainstream room.
I hung up thinking a lot about it. Sure, I was frustrated that E found his way around the email rules in our house, and did not ask permission before reaching out. It’s not ok, and part of the reason he is challenged is that he does not have enough quality leisure skills in his life. We’re working on that. But more importantly, maybe he didn’t feel like he had a choice. He had addressed his question with me, with Tom, and with his teachers. Yes, he’s struggling with how his autism affects him – negatively and positively, and he’s beginning to wrap his head around how he’s different, but he’s working hard, doing his best to fit in, and now, asking for more challenge. When he learned (from me) that Mrs. C. is the decision maker about where kids take tests, he respectfully took his concerns to her, and asked for a chance. I suddenly realized that while I can choose to focus on what I wish E had done differently (E’s emailing without permission), there is actually much to celebrate about how he handled this situation.
Sure, he could have gone about it a different way – and I wish he had asked me if he could talk with Mrs. C. before just doing it. But, in the end, isn’t this what I’ve always wanted for him? He’s working hard, making great strides to succeed in a school environment that just last year seemed impossible for him to have success in, and asking for more and more challenge as he feels ready for it. When he encounters road blocks, he finds a way to forge ahead, and does not give up. I think Mrs. C. was right – he is ready for more challenge . . .